The Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Forest Management – A Case Study from Masol and Sook Division, West Pokot, Kenya

Published on December 1, 2005 | Author: Ida Wigrup

Indigenous knowledge (IK) concerning forestry is, in many societies around the world, in danger of being lost, since western science has lately been controlling the development of forest management practices to such a large extent. It is therefore of the greatest importance to record and assess such IK before it becomes extinct. The objective of the study was to do this for the traditional knowledge that the local population in Masol and Sook Division, Kenya, possessed regarding the use, reproductive processes and deliberate dispersal of trees. Furthermore, to examine the current balance between the people and the forest resource and to put the result in relation to the role of future forest development interventions in the area. The result of the study is based on 40 interviews with both women and men. The lifestyle in Masol Division is still traditional and they are pastoralists, the lifestyle in Sook Division has been undergoing changes lately and they are now more settled and are cultivating the land to greater extent than in the past.
The study revealed that the IK was limited to meeting the direct needs which the population in the study area had experienced. The respondents proved to have great understanding concerning the use of the trees. Trees useful as fodder and sources of medicine and fruits were valued highly since illness and shortage of food and fodder were problems seriously affecting everyday life. Only a few species were reported to be used as firewood. There was limited deeper understanding, in both Masol and Sook, of the reproductive characteristics of the trees and of how the regeneration of important tree species could be improved.

The forest resources in Masol proved to be well maintained under prevailing practices and conditions. In Sook, however, where the lifestyle had changed and the land was cultivated more intensively and to greater extent, the overall balance of the forest cover was being disturbed, as shown in the changing composition of species. The results of the study show that IK was not enough for sustainable management when a society was in transition and development exerts new pressure on the forest resource.
Since no societies can, or should, be conserved intact, it is necessary to provide inputs and support from the outside when new needs, if the new needs presented by changing situations, are to be met. Western science and IK can complement each other. Recognition of both forms of knowledge would allow for development of more site-specific, efficient and sustainable forest management methods to meet future needs.
Wigrup, I. (2005). The Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Forest Management – A Case Study from Masol and Sook Division, West Pokot, Kenya. Master’s Thesis. Department of Silviculture. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Umeå.
Link to publication